PhD title :
Suffering leviathans of the past: A comparative study of fossilized pathologies in ornithopod and ceratopsian dinosaurs
Disentangling the mysterious biology of extinct animals is extremely fascinating. Behind every single bone lurks a hidden story of muscles, blood and organs, materials that have a very low chance to fossilize. Sometimes, more than you think, bones record the effects of the vicious and hard life in nature, and the study of this fascinating field is called paleopathology.
My research topic aims to analyse pathological bones within the clade Cerapoda, the dinosaurian lineage that comprises the horned ceratopsians (Triceratops and similar) and the ornithopods (from basal forms such as Iguanodon to the “duck-billed” hadrosaurs like Edmontosaurus). Their skeletons, mainly found in Cretaceous deposits (from 140 to 65 million years ago), often show several bone pathologies, from the skull to the caudal vertebrae. This project will describe the morphology of these diseases, as well as their inner structure (via histology and microCT analyses), comparing them to pathological bones found in extant archosaurs (crocodiles and birds).
My main field of interest is dinosaur paleobiology. The ability to resurrect organisms no one ever admired, the capacity to recreate muscles, organs and even skin on just naked bones always captivated my mind. Together with my published works on the Venice specimen of Ouranosaurus nigeriensis (Ornithopoda), and the histology of pneumatic bones in dinosaurs, I am describing a hadrosaur from Alberta, Canada, which shows pathological bones. This dinosaur will set the start of my PhD project!
SPaRK (Horizon2020 funded Marie Skłodowska-Curie doctoral training programme)